Air Guard's 'Band of the South' ready for summer performances

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
  • I.G. Brown Training and Education Center
The Air National Guard's foremost Band of the South - its 41 musicians - were at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center here May 28 ready to kick off a fresh and tuneful summer tour.

It was a final, full practice session in Wilson Hall before nearly a dozen shows.

"The Air National Guard's bands have new performances ... taking audiences through the history of military music and that of the Air National Guard," said Maj. Roger L. Mills, commander of the 572nd Air Force Band.

That includes performing for thousands of toe-tapping summer travelers expected to visit Virginia's shorelines, South Carolina's harbors and Florida's beaches.

Renewing their performances and ensembles were similar to putting together a theater musical, said Mills. He added that the objective was to entertain and educate in a similar fashion, as one of five Air National Guard regional bands.

"The more people that we can touch as an Air National Guard the better," said Mills. "That is our mission."

The Band of the South is booked, beginning June 28, with their rock and pop ensembles' back-to-back concerts at an amphitheater on Virginia Beach, among other performances scheduled there.

They will then travel to Charleston, S.C., to perform on the USS Yorktown, a floating museum.

"We will be doing stroll-by music, or little mini-concerts, as people go through the ship," said Senior Master Sgt. Brent Whitaker, band superintendent.

The Band of the South will wrap up their summer tour with performances during the July Fourth celebrations at Panama City Beach, Fla.

The Air National Guard's bands provide military support for morale and public affairs events.

Their ensembles, vocalists, rock and pop, jazz and orchestral musicians entertain audiences through a wide gambit of talent, said Mills.

The Air National Guard phased out six of 11 regional bands nearly two years ago, and the Tennessee-based "Band of the Smoky Mountains" adapted to absorb a larger region of responsibility, as well as its current name.

The Band of the South now has the only Air Force musicians stationed south of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River.

"Even though we are all traditional Guard members, we are called up a lot," said Whitaker, who served in a Georgia band prior to its phase out.

Mills said that they remain lawyers, realtors, schoolteachers, and any other number of professionals who all knew how to perform before they joined the National Guard.

"It's a wonderful way to serve your country doing something you love, as a musician," said Mills.

To view a photo slideshow of their practice, click here.